The end of SEO?

Google is trying to get better and better at anticipating what we’re looking for whenever we search; that’s what Marissa Mayer has said. They have been making better use of geography, not just sensing our country and language but now asking us to say where we are so it can give us local results. Since last year, it has been using our search history, if we allow, to improve our searches. The universal search tries to freshen up results with news, multimedia, and more, and I sense that the algorithm is giving more weight to currency.

So here’s a question:

Is there a future for SEO? In a sense, Google’s search results were the last one-size-fits-all mass product around (since most other mass media are shrinking): the first screen of results for, say, wine was the same for you as it was for me. And search-engine placement has taken on asset value; in my book, I just wrote that Googlejuice may soon be as important a measurement of a company’s or brand’s value as EBITDA. This led to the birth of a gigantic SEO industry.

But as Google gets better at personal relevance through everything it knows about us — and it knows more and more — then your search for wine may be different from mine and there is no absolute value for placement in results and Googlejuice, no?

What does that mean to brands? The world gets confusing once more. But I think it means that true relevance becomes more important than SEO tricks. It also means that the more relationships you have with people — the more they talk about you and link to you and click on you — the better off you will be.

Researching a section of the book on Gary Vaynerchuk, wizard of wine at WineLibrary, I was astounded as his Googlejuice. When I search for wine his store comes up fifth on the first page, the second vendor after, which spent an untold fortune to build its brand. He didn’t. His relationships with fans — search for wine TV and he’s No. 1 — pushed him higher than any tricks with metadata in his web pages.

So does SEO get replaced by people? We can only hope.